Power Arms Leathersich and Walters Both Eying Bullpen Spots

jack leathersich st. lucie

The Mets ranked eighth in the majors with a 3.68 starters’ ERA last season, finishing ahead of talented staffs from Tampa Bay, Oakland and the World Series champion Boston Red Sox. However, the New York bullpen was not as efficient and placed 22nd in the game with a 3.98 ERA while also concluding as one of 14 relief units to throw more than 500 innings.

In an effort to improve their bullpen for 2014, the Mets could turn to several young arms, including prospects Jack Leathersich, Jeff Walters and possibly even starter Rafael Montero, a team official told Adam Rubin of ESPN New York last week. None of the three pitchers have appeared in the big leagues, and only Leathersich and Montero have Triple-A experience.

Leathersich explains how all three view the chance at a big league spot. “That’s always the mindset. That’s the mindset for everybody here. I’m just going to go out there and give it my all and see what happens.”

Despite the lack of major league experience, the trio is expected to receive an opportunity to secure a spot on the opening day roster in spring training, according to Rubin. Plus, Mets manager Terry Collins said Cory Mazzoni — another minor league starter — could also earn an extended look for a bullpen spot.

The Mets are in need of power arms capable of replenishing a bullpen that finished last in the majors in strikeouts a year ago. With just 392 punch-outs over 507 innings, the relief corps was well below the National League average of 447 strikeouts. (That number should increase with full seasons from Bobby Parnell and Vic Black.)

But Leathersich and Walters could also assist the turnaround after each averaged more than a strikeout per inning last season, including a glowing 15.7 K/9 rate by Leathersich, who may own an advantage as the only southpaw of the group. Walters established career bests in saves (38) and ERA (2.09) during his third full professional season.

Montero seems like a long shot, however, as the 23-year-old blossomed as a starter between Double-A and Triple-A last season. His name has also surfaced as a possible candidate for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, a list that includes fading MLB veterans and oft-injured right-hander Jenrry Mejia. But the Mets could choose to use Montero in the same fashion the Cardinals have utilized Carlos Martinez — a dominant starter in the minors and now an integral late-inning arm — while he gains major league experience in preparation for a future starting role.

(Photo: MiLB.com)

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  • Hey Bill,

    Although you are a MetsMinors.net veteran for us, congratulations on your debut post for MMO!

    LGM

  • BCleveland3381

    Im not sure there is any scenario where Leathersich makes the club out of camp. He is so wild. He has to get his command under control. I really wonder if he’ll end up taking a few MPH off his fastball just to gain a little extra control. He can’t walk as many as he has been in the minors out of the bullpen.
    Walters has a better chance, but I think he’ll start the year in AAA. Consistency has been much better for him over his minor league career. I think he’ll start the year as the AAA closer.

  • diehardmets

    Leathersich should not make the club out of spring training. He walks far too many, and needs to iron out those problems first. Walters on the other hand is probably ready, but getting some AAA seasoning is probably a good thing. Personally, I am excited to see some combination of Parnell/Black/Familia/Walters shortening games for us by the end of 2014.

  • Bill Buckner

    Leathersich’s name alone makes me root for him to make the team

  • jason bay

    The Mets do have a looming off season roster crunch next year as Lawley, Leathersich, Montero, Bradford, Syndergaard, Mazzoni, Verret,Taijeron, Mateo, Tapia, Ynoa, Lara, Herrera, Beck Wheeler and Akeel Morris will have to be given consideration.

    In addition current eligibles who were not selected this year may force their way onto the 40 including: Kolerak, Ceciliani, Gorski, Vaughn, Peavey, Harris, Robles and Bret Mitchell so roster spots are at a premium.

    Because of this issue I don’t see anyone who is not currently on the 40 coming up before the super two deadline and this is the reason. If someone was added and got hurt (especially pitchers),they would have to either remain on the 40 or be exposed to waivers which means they wouldn’t be required to spend a full year (or parts of two seasons) on another teams 25 man active roster if someone selected them off waivers.

    You could expose an injured pitcher to the rule 5 and be relatively certain with some exceptions that they would not be taken and therefore, the later you bring them up, the better as someone is bound to go down at some point and by June 15th or so you have already passed through almost half of the season.

  • ParisWilponCOO

    Here’s an idea to improve the bullpen AND attendance in one shot. At the 7th inning stretch, one ticket # will be drawn at random- and that person will be called down to the dugout to make pitching decisions. I have far more faith in any random fan to make better decisions and not to burn arms than TC, so our bullpen performance will be vastly improved. And how tempting would it be to buy a ticket and have a chance to fill that role? Even if it only sells a few hundred more every game, that adds up. Win-win!

  • oleosmirf

    But the Mets will also be subtracting many players from the roster as well. We will have an answer to the 1B and SS question so the “losers” will be off the roster. Then you have the players like C. Young who wont be resigned and along with the likely trades of Murphy and Gee, there will be plenty of spots opening.

    Also the majority of the players you listed would not be claimed in the rule V draft (Wheeler, Morris, Taijeron) or are not eligible (Herrera)

  • Hitmanᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ✔

    Montero in the pen? I wouldn’t be against it if they can’t find a late inning veteran, in addition to the recent stuff about Parnell being a few weeks behind schedule. However, I only see Walters making the team with Leathersich working on his control with Viola in Vegas.

  • oleosmirf

    The only way Montero goes to the pen is if the Mets find themselves in a playoff race in August/September.

  • Andrew Herbst

    I think Walters has a better chance of making the team out of spring training than Leathersctich. Leatherstich needs to work on his control.

  • BarnRat

    I’d think Montero continuing as a starter in Vegas as the “6th man” since the health of the probable starting rotation has to be considered questionable.

  • Hitmanᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ✔

    Good point, especially considering Mejia & Niese’s history. Just hoping those guys pull out 200 innings this year.

  • jason bay

    There are 15 pretty solid candidates among the names I mentioned to be added and while of course some will come off as you mentioned, you don’t want to have a guy who can’t play for you in 2015 on the off season 40 so by waiting till July 1st you mitigate that risk by 50%,

    Now a Montero or Syndergaard is worth that risk since you would allocate a spot for them anyway but perhaps a Mazzoni, Mateo, Verrett, Leathersich or Wheeler you might not so you have to be as careful as you can with those types.

  • Let the best guys play. That’s all we can ask for.